A Life of Possibilities

What gives your life a sense of purpose?


Veteran Kirk Bauer lost his leg in an explosion, and at first he had no idea what his life would be like. Then he was invited to go skiing – yes, skiing! -- by a group of veterans who had just started a wounded soldiers organization, which became today’s Disabled Sports USA.

Kirk took that ski trip, and as he says, “it gave me something positive to think about.” That first step back into sports literally got Kirk back on his feet (watch the video of Kirk skiing!) and from then on, he refused to allow his disability to limit his possibilities.

Today, as Executive Director of Disabled Sports USA for the past 31 years, Kirk devotes his life to empowering others and supporting their dreams. “My tragedy gave me a sense of purpose,” Kirk explains.

In 2010, Kirk led a team of amputee veterans to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Two years later, they tried climbing Denali. While they didn’t make it to the top, “it was the effort that was important,” recalls Kirk. “For me, a life of possibilities is to look at what is possible and work toward that, whether you make it or not. It’s the journey that will give you joy in life … a feeling of accomplishment. Never stop learning.”

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When you become disabled, your whole world just collapses around you, physically, emotionally, psychologically, all of it, because you really don't know what is life after disability.

I was in Vietnam for three months, and I got hit by a grenade, probably an RPG. So I lost my leg from that explosion.

Sports have always been a big part of my life, and when I lost my leg, that, you know, was the thing that I focused on first. Gee, I'm not going to be able to do sports any more. I was looking at all the negatives.

But some veterans came by, and they had just started this organization, which is now Disabled Sports USA. And they said, "As soon as you can get out, we want to take you skiing." I thought, "Skiing? That's about the stupidest thing I've ever heard, you know, a one-legged guy. How are you going to do it?" But it gave me something positive to think about just, "Well, maybe I can do it. I don't know." And by the end of the fourth day, I was skiing down an intermediate slope, and it was the biggest high in the word.

This tragedy eventually gave me a sense of purpose, you know, getting back literally on my feet again, foot. A lot of the heavy duty endurance sports, I got into them after I turned 50. We started serving severely wounded young guys, and I got involved in doing the activities they were involved in.

I had the challenge from another wounded warrior who came to me and said, "I want to climb Kilimanjaro. I'm a double-leg amputee." So we literally had one good leg between us, and it was absolutely the greatest thrill in the world. I was 62 years old at that time.

Two years later, we tried climbing Denali, and we did not make it to the top. But it was the effort that was important, not necessarily getting to the top.

Never stop learning. In my opinion, when you stop learning, you start dying. And so, for me, a life of possibilities is to look at what is possible and then to work toward that. Whether you make it or not, it's the journey that is going to give you that joy in life, that satisfaction in life, and that feeling of accomplishment.

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